Never Make Comparisons

Welcome back to the Ten Rules series where we examine Lloyd Percival’s list of How to Establish Rapport with Your Athletic Child. In the first post, we looked at the background of Percival and his involvement in developing The Hockey Handbook. Now we look at each of his ten rules and how they may (or may not) pertain to you and your young hockey player. 

Rule #7 Don’t compare your child’s skill, courage or attitude to other children on the team.

If your child tends to resent the treatment he gets from the coach, or the approval other team members get, be careful to talk over the facts with them fairly and honestly. If you play the overly protective parent blinded to your youngster’s athletic status, you will just make things worse. Your youngster could become a problem athlete.

Most of Lloyd Percival’s coaching experience at the club level was in track and field, where performances are easily measured with a stopwatch or a tape measure. Comparisons to other competitors are inevitable and relatively easy. For the most part, everyone gets an equal opportunity to compete and to prove themselves.

In hockey, one player’s ability compared to another is usually measured by statistics. But there are so many aspects of hockey play that you can’t find on a score sheet. Coaches rely on their perceptions during games and practices to determine each player’s merits. Also, hockey is a team sport and there are intangibles that coaches have to take into account when they decide what position or line to put a player on. Players may not know or understand how a coach decides these things but a good coach will help communicate this to them and to their parents.

The perfect example is an individual player’s ice time. The players keep close tabs on how much ice time each player gets – especially those getting the least playing time – and it will probably be the first thing they complain about on the drive home. It’s so important for parents to help their young hockey players understand what they bring to the team. Try to boost your child’s confidence by emphasizing what they do well and, whatever you do, don’t compare their skill level to other players on the team, especially if you’re going to belittle another player (definitely a no-no).

While it’s almost always best to put things in a positive light, a parent may go so far as to say that the distribution of playing time “may not be fair”. “It’s not my position to judge; they are the coach and they decide what’s best for the team”, might be a good way to frame it. Let them know that in their lives they’ll have to accept a lot of decisions people make that they don’t agree with. Let them know that life is not always fair. But in life, as in hockey, hard work and supporting the team usually gets noticed and usually pays off.

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About The Author

Gary Mossman is a freelance writer living in Toronto, Ontario. He is member of the Society for International Hockey Research (SIHR) who has appeared in The Hockey News. CONTINUE